How to Use Descriptive Statistics in Excel

Updated February 21, 2017

Descriptive statistics is the branch of statistics that describes a set of data in basic terms. A common example of a descriptive statistic is the mean, sometimes called an average, which is calculated by adding up all of the numbers in a data set and dividing by the number of items in the set. Instead of making tedious calculations like this by hand, you can use Excel functions to calculate descriptive statistics for you.

Type your data into the spreadsheet. For example, you might type a list of heights into column A or a list of egg prices in column F.

Click on a blank cell in a spreadsheet.

Click on the "Formulas" tab on the Excel toolbar, then click on "More Functions" in the Function Library. Click on "Statistical" and then mouse over the function for a description, and if it is the function you need, click on it to open a dialogue box for the function. For example, "Median" returns the median, or the middle number in the data set.

Type the location of your data into the text box. For example, if your data is in cells A1 to A3, type "A1:A3" into the "Number 1" text box.

Click on the "OK" button. Excel will perform the calculation and return the answer in your chosen cell.


You don't have to type the data into a single column. However, most of Excel's features use column entries for correct formatting. For example, if you want to create a graph from your data, your entries must be in column format in order for the graph to display correctly.

Things You'll Need

  • Excel 2007 or Excel 2010
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About the Author

Stephanie Ellen teaches mathematics and statistics at the university and college level. She coauthored a statistics textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ellen holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from State University New York, a master's degree in math education from Jacksonville University and a Master of Arts in creative writing from National University.